Life has thrown its fair share of challenges at Jacob Williams aka Gappy Ranks. Music lifted him from a onetime homeless youth from Harlesden, London, to a local success story.
Then he had to fight for international acceptance while shouldering the expectations of a UK reggae scene perceived from outside as being past its glorious best.
This year he faced a new challenge – adjusting from being London’s hottest young newcomer to an established artist with the release of his third album Shining Hope.
Angus Taylor linked Gappy as he was about to embark on his East Coast and Central American tour to discuss the closing year in review.
Your first album Put The Stereo On was your “Studio 1” album. You’ve said in the past that it wasn’t necessarily your first choice to be released but it painted a certain picture of you to the album buying public. Your second album Thanks & Praise was more modern and had dancehall, hip hop, trance and lots of different influences in there. For your third album Shining Hope you’ve gone for a modern sound again but it’s 100% reggae only.
Going around the world and seeing where my strengths are – the people wanted hear me mostly through reggae music. People are very aware that Gappy Ranks does dancehall. I’ve just released a hip hop and dancehall crossover track with one of the biggest producers from New Zealand called Baddest which has been added to various playlists around the world.
But I wanted to do a full reggae album. Put The Stereo On was a reggae album but that was a Studio 1 album, as you said. Thanks & Praise had dancehall reggae and alternative beats like English Money.
This one is full reggae. It can even be termed a reggae pop album. It’s got the lovers on there, it’s got one or two rebellion tracks on there and the rest is upliftment. I think it is something that is needed – not only from Gappy Ranks but in the music right now. A lot of the music is covered on just the revolutionary side of it, but reggae music covers all emotions and I gave you different bits of emotions on this album Shining Hope. The world needs some hope right now. Everybody needs hope – even me.
One of the strongest tracks is Back To Reality – where you criticise yourself quite publically.
You have to remember this – just because you are born with a talent to do music doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to use it – it’s something you have to develop and it’s a journey we have to take. It’s easy to lose that hunger – especially in the music business. The hunger is the first thing to go and without the hunger there’s nothing.
I’ve done what there is to do within the music – the only thing they say I haven’t done is win a few awards. But in terms of the touring and people getting to know who Gappy Ranks is – that has been done. But I had to dig back in. I had to remember why I fell in love with music. Everything’s for a reason and Shining Hope has definitely come out at the perfect time – not only for the music industry but in my life.
In that song you ask yourself “What happened to the big tunes you used to make?” Did you feel like the quality of your music was slipping?
Not necessarily slipping – it’s what I was portraying. It’s what the people were getting and what I was delivering. Gappy Ranks is so versatile and I have never set out a plan where I’m going to make this type of music or I’m going to be this type of artist. Being a Gemini where my creative personality is just crazy; I’ve rapped, I’ve sung, I’ve deejayed, I’ve produced. My problem is I set out too many tasks and put out too many things at the same time in terms of ideas. It’s not that they are not good but you’ve got so much to do and not everything gets done. That’s what Back To Reality is about. It’s just about coming back to focus, know what to deliver and when to deliver it. It’s all a learning process.